Features & Columns

Full Strain Ahead

This weekend collectives will battle to see whose bud reigns supreme at the Cannabis Cup
TASTE TEST: A new ‘blind’ method of judging will be used this year at the Cannabis Cup. Canna Culture Collective will be entering Purple Frost (far left), Grape Ape (middle) and Sonoma Coma.

THE BUDS have been cut, trimmed, tested and turned in. Now all the competitors have to do is wait.

The High Times Medical Cannabis Cup comes to the Bay Area from June 23-24. The weed culture magazine brought its 24-year-old competition to the States from Amsterdam three years ago with a new focus on the medicinal properties of cannabis. Contrary to what geographically-ignorant promoters may slap on posters, the Cup takes place in Richmond, a hop, skip and a BART across the bay from S.F.

But it isn’t necessary to travel all the way to Richmond or cough up the $65 entrance fee to sample some of the best chronic that NorCal has to offer. San Jose’s dispensaries have done the city’s patients proud in the Cup’s two-year history. In 2010, Purple Lotus Patient Center’s Durban Poison placed third in the Sativa category. In 2011, Harborside Health Center’s San Jose location took first in the Indica cup with its zesty, piney Boggle Gum.

For the past two years, Elemental Wellness Center’s True OG has placed second in the Indica category. Last year they took home three awards but didn’t take first in any category. They’re hoping for that to change.

“We’re going for first this year,” shouts an enthusiastic vendor at Elemental’s HempCon booth this past weekend.

The fact that in the past 10 years only two different distributors have won Amsterdam’s Cannabis Cup suggests that judges are biased towards high profile dispensaries with well-known strains. But Canna Culture Collective’s Marcus David says new blind tasting rules will give newcomers a chance at victory. This year’s Cup will be the first competition in which the 10-month-old dispensary has ever participated.

David is hoping the dispensary’s CBD-enriched Cannamin Juice will win over judges in the Edibles category. “People need a controlled and higher dose of CBD,” he says, explaining that heating up CBDs during smoking causes psychoactivity, so the juice caters to patients that want pain relief without the head high. Canna Culture Collective produces this juice exclusively for their collective.

“I’m not too worried about bias,” David says. “I’m just looking forward to who has the best herb.”

But how do judges know which herb is the best?

“There’s a lot more to growing great flowers than high THC content,” says San Jose Patient’s Group’s Mike Key, known to patients as Uncle Mike.

“There are sativas with higher THC contents than this one, but we didn’t choose it for competition,” Key says of the dispensary’s entry in the sativa category, a Super Train Wreck strain containing 17.8 percent THC—a modest amount for a competition-worthy crop.

Judges take into account the look and smell of the entries, and look for herb that burns evenly and leaves a light grey ash, a sign of proper flushing. When it’s time to choose a winner, however, it’s anybody’s game.

“I think, for a lot of the judges, what it really comes down to is personal preference,” says Key. “I don’t know why it would be any other way.”